Athletics

A's vs White Sox on April 17 will be one-of-a-kind promotion

as-fans-kids.jpg
AP

A's vs White Sox on April 17 will be one-of-a-kind promotion

The A’s announced details for one of the more unique promotions in the major leagues this upcoming season.

Their April 17 game against the Chicago White Sox at the Coliseum — played on the 50th anniversary of their first game in Oakland — will be completely free admission for fans. The A’s are promoting the game as one of the first of its kind. They originally unveiled the idea back in September. On Wednesday, they announced fans can sign up for tickets Jan. 10 starting at 8 a.m. at athletics.com/50.

Current season ticket holders don’t need to sign up. Tickets for that game will automatically be loaded on to their accounts.

“We are extremely excited to offer this gift to the city as we celebrate 50 years in Oakland,” A’s president Dave Kaval said in a club statement. “The entire 2018 season will be a celebration of the A’s rich history, and offering the first free MLB game is another unique way for us to celebrate our team and wonderful fans.”

Whether this free game is indeed the first of its kind is unknown, but at the very least it’s extremely rare. And the A’s caught some good fortune with the schedule. The White Sox wouldn’t be a big draw as a visiting team, particularly on a Tuesday night, which is when this anniversary game falls. So the A’s at least have a chance to generate some buzz on what would otherwise be a humdrum date on their home schedule.

Some other highlights worth noting from the A’s 2018 schedule:

Their March 29 season opener against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels will be their first home opener played in the afternoon since 1994. First pitch will be at 1:05.

This year’s Bay Bridge Series against the Giants, rather than be played as a four-game series, will be a six-game set that sandwiches the All-Star break. Three games will take place at AT&T Park on July 13-15, then the A’s will host three July 20-22.

How A's starter Daniel Mengden was able to turn his 2019 season around

mengdenprayingusatsi.jpg
USATSI

How A's starter Daniel Mengden was able to turn his 2019 season around

OAKLAND -- Daniel Mengden's first five outings of the season did not go well.

While the A's right-hander posted a respectable 1-1 record, he allowed 13 earned runs in just 23 innings for an ERA of 5.09. Mengden's biggest problem was his command -- the 26-year-old issued 15 walks in those five outings, translating to nearly six walks per nine frames.

Not surprisingly, Mengden was demoted to Triple-A. But he didn't hang his head. Instead, he used the opportunity to improve, particularly his control.

Since returning to the A's late last month, Mengden has won all four of his starts, most recently a 9-2 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday night at the Coliseum. He tossed seven strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits.

Most importantly, Mengden has only walked one batter in 24 innings since getting called back up from Triple-A.

"It's amazing," he said. "I'm not a big punchout guy. I'm not going to blow anybody away all the time, so it's all about staying aggressive and being ahead because when I'm ahead, I'm always in the driver's seat."

A's manager Bob Melvin echoed that sentiment, explaining that Mengden's improved command has completely changed the way he can attack hitters.

"Putting guys on base usually means you're getting behind them," Melvin said. "Now, all of a sudden, you have guys on base and you're trying to pitch around traffic. So I think that's been the key since he's been back."

With Tuesday's win, Mengden improved to 5-1 on the season with a 4.21 ERA, down nearly a full run from a month ago. In addition to commanding his pitches better, he has effectively mixed speeds and locations to keep hitters off balance.

"It's just staying aggressive," Mengden explained. "Getting strike one, and trying to keep them off balance."

Added Melvin: "It's mixing pitches that's important to him and getting ahead. Then he gets way less predictable. When he's behind and now he has to come in with a fastball, he's a little easier to handle. So it all starts with strike one, it all starts with not putting guys on base."

Mengden accomplished that goal Tuesday night, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced. In total, he threw 65 strikes, compared to just 31 balls.

[RELATED: Bailey gets 'energy boost' joining A's]

"That's huge for us," said A's third baseman Matt Chapman, who homered and drove in five runs. "Playing defense behind a guy who throws a lot of strikes and works quick, that's all you can ask for. ... (Mengden) is capable of doing really good things on the mound. I've seen it in the minor leagues and seen it at this level too. So to see him get into that groove is really good."

The A's hope Mengden stays in that groove for the rest of the season. As long as he continues to pitch ahead in the count, he should be in great shape.

Homer Bailey gets 'energy boost' by joining playoff-contending A's

homerbaileyusatsi.jpg
AP

Homer Bailey gets 'energy boost' by joining playoff-contending A's

OAKLAND -- In the blink of an eye, Homer Bailey went from being 20 1/2 games out of a playoff spot to being tied for the second American League Wild Card position.

The 33-year-old right-hander was traded from Kansas City to Oakland on Sunday as the A's officially began their trade deadline maneuvering.

"To go to (a team) like this, it's definitely an energy boost," Bailey said. "Guys who go to contending teams, maybe their game will elevate a little bit. It definitely brings in some energy that I haven't been a part of in a few years."

It's actually been more than a few years. The last time Bailey was on a team over .500 was the 2013 Cincinnati Reds. He's excited to finally be back in a playoff race.

"You see how competitive they are within this division and right there in the middle of everything," Bailey said of the A's. "The only thing I see is the record right now and that's just something that glares out. Obviously, the guys know how to win some games."

As for his performance on the mound, it's been a rough few years for the former first-round draft pick. Bailey finished the last two seasons with earned run averages of 6.43 and 6.09, respectively. He's been better this year with a 4.80 ERA and has enjoyed great success in his last eight outings, going 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA.

"It looks like the velo is up a little bit, he's got a good split, can pitch up and down," A's manager Bob Melvin assessed. "He's always been a talented guy. ... A lot of it has to do with just confidence. If you're feeling confident on the mound, that's a lot of the battle."

Bailey offered his thoughts on why he's pitching better of late.

"Just pitching a little bit better, having a little better gameplans going into it, preparation, and hopefully it will continue," Bailey said.

[RELATED: Why Laureano's power isn't surprising]

Bailey will make his A's debut Wednesday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners. If he can continue his recent performance, it should help bolster Oakland's decimated starting rotation.

"I know he's excited about being here and we're excited about having him," Melvin said.